Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park in Sector 52 Gurgaon is one of the few public parks in the city that gets some noticeable–albeit inadequate—attention from the city administration on its upkeep. A walk around this 2 acre park gives a clear impression of someone’s best intentions on its design and purpose but its poor upkeep and half-delivered efforts become apparent even on one’s first visit.
The Good Things:
The park entrance is manned so ensures the space to be urchin-free. During regular hours there is a nominal entry charge but during early morning or late evening hours, its entry is free to encourage the use of its walking track. Areas immediately visible on entering the park are looked after by gardeners or contractors well enough. The presence of seasonal flowers in black plastic containers near the entrance confirms the interest in making the park look at least superficially maintained. Further up, a large patch of ground is devoted to roses in varying shades and attracts the maximum number of casual visitors for the mix of colours it shows.
Birding potential and areas: On the first look, the park seems right only for casual or brisk walking, and even shows walkers who may be using it regularly. To the discerning eye of a birder, however, it shows some parts that attract dryland and forest birds.
Stretch I: The ideal area for spotting birds starts from the left side upon entering the park. Between the entrance and a concrete temple, there is a tree grove that once showed us a Common Hawk Cuckoo—it took short flights but largely remained inside the park. Beyond the temple, walking on the periphery can be often gratifying. Several feet of the ground going towards the boundary wall seem to remain outside the greening or cleaning purview of gardeners or sweepers. But the unkempt and dry grass–and the presence of fallow land beyond the wall–seems to assure birds of undisturbed foraging so brings them there. Birds we’ve spotted close to the left side boundary wall have included Long-tailed Shrikes, Tree Pipits, Ashy and Plain Prinias, Pied Mynas, Common Starlings, Green Bee-eaters, Black Kites, Black Drongos and Common Hoopoes.
Stretch II: As one turns right along the edge and crosses a curious fiber-sheet dome, the area beyond the wall shows high mounds of earth and, further up, a hutment of casual labourers. On our walks, this stretch has shown us Indian Robins, Black Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroats and Common Tailorbirds with some certainty in winter months, Greater Coucals on some visits and a Spotted Owlet on a recent visit.
Stretch III: As one approaches an ancient (and deep) well, an eye on the area on one’s right is likely to show Yellow-wattled Lapwings and Eurasian Thick-knees during their nesting season. It’s fairly easy to spot 4-5 pairs of these birds then. Red-wattled Lapwings are also seen sporadically.
Stretch IV: As one keeps turning right beyond the in-house nursery, the experience of walking gets pleasant alongside apartment complexes on the Sector 56 road as the park vegetation looks well tended there. It shows palm groves and floral shrubs but unfortunately, birds get rare. Rufous Treepies and Rose-ringed Parakeets are the only birds we’ve seen around the start of this stretch, and Oriental White-eyes and Purple Sunbirds as one is nearing the exit.
Besides, the usual Red-vented Bulbuls, Common Mynas, House Crows, Rock Pigeons and Eurasian Collared Doves can be seen elsewhere in the park. Kishore has recently created an album in his online gallery for birds of this park, and together we look forward to seeing it fill up with newer species seen on visits in different seasons.
The Bad Things:
Sadly, the adverse conditions of the park spoil one’s experience of being there. By listing them here, I hope that they’ll catch someone’s attention and be addressed sooner rather than later:
Feral Dogs: There are too many dogs towards the far end of the park. The park caretakers express helplessness about them as a low boundary wall, and high mounds of earth beyond it, makes it easy for humans or dogs to hop inside. These dogs look adept in attacking birds that keep to the ground and they are a menace for humans walking that side.
Unswept and uncared for stretches: About 1/3rd of the park feels totally uncared for. Much of the stock of dry leaves swept off the clean parts is simply left at the far end of the park. That stops people from going there and gives dogs a free run of those stretches. Unfortunately, these are also the parts where many birds are spotted.
Lax watering: Water from pipes keeps flowing in some parts of the park but doesn’t reach many areas.
Huts of caretakers: On the right side of the entrance are some low height huts belonging to gardeners or sweepers of the park. These people live and cook there, and have their clothes strewn about, making that side look unsightly and out of place.
Open pits: Towards the far end are some open pits that may have been planned as fillers for dry leaves but they demand some care to avoid walking into them. One wonders why they haven’t been barricaded to prevent any accidents.
Directions to the Park: Also referred to as TDL Biodiversity and Botanical Garden, it appears on the Sector Road that has Gold Souk on its left side. From Huda City Centre, take the Sector Road with signs for Gold Souk/Sector 56, drive straight down, past traffic lights, till the Park entrance appears on left, just short of the left turn to Sector 56.